Research is finding that the long-known risk factors for heart disease and stroke are also risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The main risk factors are high blood pressure, cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
It may seem like a strange connection at first, but give it deeper thought. If your blood vessels become clogged, blood is unable to flow freely. This means that the brain does not get adequate blood flow, and the brain’s connective processes can weaken.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It destroys an individual’s memory, the ability to learn and make decisions, even basic communication and the performance of daily activities.
As the disease gradually progresses, the individual may experience changes in behavior and personality, increased anxiety or agitation, even delusions. Alzheimer’s disease is fatal, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Nearly 5.5 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. One out of every eight individuals over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s, and one out of every two individuals over the age of 85 have the disease. As the baby-boomer generation ages, Alzheimer’s diagnosis rates are expected to skyrocket.
We can help fight Alzheimer’s disease with seven key strategies identified by researchers.
- Manage Your Blood Sugar
Be sure to track your blood sugar levels. The link between high blood sugar and declining cognition is present long before the first severe symptom is experienced, and frequently even before the diagnosis of diabetes.
Controlling your sugar levels will have a huge impact on decreasing your risk for Alzheimer’s. When blood sugar is regulated there will be more insulin available for the brain to use, more fuel for the brain cells, and less inflammation in the blood vessels and brain tissue.
- Control Cholesterol
By keeping your cholesterol levels in check, you help to minimize the clogging and inflammation of blood vessels all over the body, especially in the heart and brain.
- Manage Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a huge contributor to artery damage and inflammation. It is crucial to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level in order to protect your brain.
- Get Moving
This is especially important for diabetics, because there is already a buildup of excess glucose in the bloodstream. This physical activity helps to clear the glucose from the bloodstream, and from the brain. This reduces risk for the development of Alzheimer’s.
This type of moderate-intensity exercise actually boosts neurological function, for diabetics and non-diabetics alike. Exercise can help keep the brain sharp, and prevent cognitive decline as we age. Research has also shown that it’s never too soon (or too late) to begin. The sooner you start, and the longer you stick with it, the more benefit you’re likely to experience.
- Eat Right
Protein, good fats, and plenty of fiber are the essential foundations of a healthy diet. When you make good food choices, you will not only feel better in the short-term, you are investing in your brain health in the long-term.
When grocery shopping, make a list and stick to it. Shop from the list and do not pick something off of the shelf simply because it looks good and you want it in that moment. Keep to the perimeter of the store – meats, seafood, dairy, and produce. The whole, clean foods you are looking for will not be found down the aisles. The boxed and packaged foods in the middle of the store contain all manner of less-than-desirable ingredients (including sugar.)
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Meet with your physician before embarking on a weight loss plan. If you are not currently at a healthy weight, your physician will set a goal weight for you to reach. Stay in communication with your healthcare team to ensure you remain on track with your goals.
For diabetic dieters, blood sugar must remain at the forefront of your mind if you want to lose weight in a healthy way.
- Don’t Smoke
Smoking is a habit that many individuals struggle to overcome, and it has an effect on nearly every part of your body. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases, immune problems, all compounded by smoking. It’s especially crucial for diabetics to quit smoking. If you’re a smoker, talk with your physician about quitting.